Jackie Robinson statue stolen from youth baseball field; police ask public for help

A youth baseball field in Wichita, Kansas, is missing its Jackie Robinson statue. On Thursday, police asked the public to help identify the thieves who stole it.

The bronze statue was built for League 42, a program founded by executive director Bob Lutz in 2013. It stood at the entry point of several baseball fields as a beacon to the community, as he created the space in McAdams Park hoping to make baseball more accessible for every kid.

Damages were estimated to be $75,000 after the fixture was cut down to just its shoes, the City of Wichita announced.

Surveillance video was released Thursday evening, showing what appears to be a brown truck as it pulls up to the pavilion Wednesday night. At least two people can be seen working together to bring the statue down and load it into the vehicle before driving away.

The youth baseball program is based on the legacy of Robinson, who wore No. 42 when he became the first African American to play Major League Baseball, debuting with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

“This was the heart and soul of League 42,” Lutz told local outlet KWCH. "I'm still trying to process the fact that it's gone, but we'll do everything in our power to continue to honor Jackie Robinson in this community, and have the support of the community."

Robinson's likeness was emulated by late sculptor John Parsons, who handcrafted the statue. Carol Parsons, his widow, said she was devastated in the wake of the theft.

“I was just, my heart, my stomach just dropped,” Parson told KSN as she recalled the phone call about the statue's disappearance. “He was so excited. He was humbled. It was the first sculpture he had actually done that was supposed to look like somebody."

Lutz obtained permission from the Robinson family to commission the figure. Parsons worked closely with the family to perfect Robinson's features on the piece, which took two years to complete.

Calling the theft "an embarrassment" for his community, Lutz said he believes the statue can be remade via a clay mold the artist left behind. But Parsons would rather see her husband's original work returned.

Anyone with knowledge of the crime can contact Wichita Police Investigators at 316-268-4407.